Merida’s eBIG.TOUR range takes some of the DNA of their hardtail mountain bikes and mixes it with Shimano motors and city-friendly accessories. The result is a bike that’s really easy to like. It’s at home about town, but is capable of heading quite a long way off the beaten track. It’s the urban/trekking SUV of the e-bike market, and none the worse for it.
The eBIG.TOUR is built around a triple butted, hydroformed aluminium alloy frame with a heavily sloping top tube. That means there’s masses of standover height so it’s easy to hop off the saddle when you’re standing at the lights. It’s not a full low-step but it’s low enough that if you have limited mobility you’ll stand a chance of getting your leg over it. The frame is nicely finished, and all cables are routed internally. There’s enough space left in the frame for a bottle, which can be mounted on the down tube or slung underneath the top tube.
Shimano’s E7000 motor sits at the bottom bracket. With 60Nm of torque and a maximum peak output of 500W, it’s a very similar motor on paper the the Bosch Performance Line, and that’s the way it feels too. There’s power enough to make getting up my benchmark hill (1.5km at 5% with a 12% section) a fuss-free experience, especially given the gearing.
With a 36-tooth chainring and a wide-range 11-42 cassette at the rear the eBIG.TOUR’s bottom gear is very low, and you can winch yourself up the steeper (20-25%) hills round Bath with relative ease. That low-range gearing comes into its own when you’re tackling steeper stuff off-road too. The top gear is fairly low, but it’s big enough to easily spin up to a speed where the motor will cut out. The bike’s okay without assistance; the tyres feel a bit draggy when you’re trying to push on but if you run out of juice you can crawl home without too much bother: the drive unit doesn’t have much internal resistance so it doesn’t feel like you’re cycling through treacle.
The bike uses Shimano’s city-spec display and shifter which give easy access to the three assistance modes and plenty of ride data. In Eco mode you’ll get the most out of the battery, and in the middle trail mode you can access the full power of the motor if you’re pushing hard but most of the time you’ll get less help than in Boost mode which is pretty much full gas for as long as you’re pedalling and not going faster than the 26km/h cut-off. The assistance feels natural enough about town, and when you head to more technical terrain the Trail mode allows you to tailor your effort to avoid wheel slip and get the maximum help.
If there’s a word to describe riding the eBIG.TOUR, it’s fun. It’s a laugh, this one. The big Maxxis Ikon tyres have plenty of grip, and enough of an air chamber to make the back of the bike comfy enough in spite of the stiff frame and big diameter seatpost. At the front there’s a 100mm travel Suntour XCR34 air-sprung fork, which is overkill for city use but miles better than the short travel forks you normally get on urban bikes. It’s capable enough to handle some reasonably technical terrain too, if you’re in the mood. You can lock the fork out if you’re finding things a bit bouncy about town.
The ride position is neutral, the steering predictable and the gear range ideal for just booting about town. Potholes can be tackled head on, and the mudguards give enough coverage to keep you looking smart through the puddles. The integrated lights are a great addition; you wouldn’t want to head into the great unknown with just the beam from the front light to guide you, but about town it’s ideal. The rear light is integrated into the rack, which itself is integrated into the mudguard. If you habitually use your bike to cart heavy loads then that setup probably won’t fill you with confidence with its lack of top struts for the rack, although it does look neat and the rack is rated to 25kg. I haven’t had any issues in testing and the bottom mounts for the rack look nice and sturdy.
The spec level of the bike is decent rather than stellar for the money. Shimano’s Deore transmission components are great value and very dependable, and the two-piston MT200 hydraulic disc brakes make short work of stopping, although it’s quite easy to lock up the rear tyre on tarmac. The wheels feature Shimano hubs and Merida’s own rims, and they’re perfectly functional. Merida has its own full range of components for finishing its bikes and they’re used extensively here; it’s all decent stuff. The addition of an Abus wheel lock for when you’re quickly popping into the shops is a nice touch.
The range of the eBIG.TOUR is good. A 500Wh battery is the minimum you’d expect for this money and if you’re a bit judicious with your mode choices you should get 60-70km of mixed use out of the bike on one charge. As ever, it’s a moveable feast depending on where you’re riding and how heavy you are, but I found the range to be broadly similar to other 500Wh mid-motor machines I’ve tried.
If you’re mostly looking for a bike for city riding it’s hard to imagine a use case where you’d burn through the battery in a single day. If you’re trekking from place to place then you can get a decent few hours of riding in before you’ll need to be near a mains socket again. You can charge the bike via the charge port on the frame; it’s a bit of a fiddle to close it again and I found it flapping loose in the rain a couple of times, which isn’t ideal.
Overall I really liked this Merida. It’s a very well-considered mix of bits that adds up to a bike that’s versatile, fun to ride, and easy to get on with. It doesn’t have any major foibles and it’s equally at home cruising through the city or tackling some reasonably tough terrain. If you had to have one e-bike to throw at everything it wouldn’t be a bad place to start.